The US government has revoked the visas of four Honduran officials in a bid to pressure the de facto government in Tegucigalpa to accept a brokered settlement of the Central American country's month-old political crisis.
With little indication that the acting government is ready to accept the return of ousted President Manuel Zelaya – the solution proposed by crisis mediator Oscar Arias, president of neighboring Costa Rica – the US is preparing to cancel even more visas of officials who have accepted positions in Honduras's interim government.
Honduran officials, including interim President Roberto Micheletti, scoff at Tuesday's US visa revocation – even though it suggests that the United States, traditionally influential in Honduras, is becoming more frustrated and even though it means no travel to US cities such as Miami and Las Vegas, preferred destinations for the Latin American elite.
The State Department says it is also revoking the "derivative visas" for family members of individuals whose diplomatic visas are canceled.
A signal of the need to resolve crisis
The visa revocation "sends a signal that the US is serious about wanting this resolved," says Michael Shifter, vice president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington. "But at the same time, it's not too extreme. The US could take economic action that would end up punishing the Honduran people, and they want to avoid that," he adds. "This is something in the middle that tells officials, 'It's time to settle this.' "
The US action comes as a deadlock sets in between Mr. Zelaya and the de facto government. Mr. Arias is proposing that Zelaya, ousted June 28 after what was viewed by some Hondurans as a power grab, finish out his term ending in January – though with clipped powers.
Under Arias's plan, Zelaya and any officials involved in what much of the world concluded was a military coup – though officials maintain it was a legitimate removal from office – would be granted immunity from any charges.
State Department officials did not reveal the identities of the individuals whose visas were revoked. But officials in Tegucigalpa say the four include Supreme Court Justice Tomás Arita, who signed the order for Zelaya's arrest prior to the military action that rousted him from the presidential palace, and Congressional President José Alfredo Saavedro.
Unease in Honduras?
Honduras's Supreme Court and Congress have left Arias's proposed settlement unanswered for more than a week.
That indecision suggests the interim government is increasingly feeling the bind of its predicament, Mr. Shifter says. "They're really in a quandary over what to do," he says. "They know this is not sustainable for them, but there is also tremendous fear of what Zelaya might do if he did return to power."
That is why the US is likely to have a role as a settlement guarantor once a resolution is reached, Shifter says. "I think we can assume the US will be part of an agreement that assures those Hondurans [who] took action against a president that Zelaya's wings will indeed be clipped."
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